First pictures of UAE's Mars spacecraft at Japan launch site

The Hope probe will be launched on July 15

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Preparations in Japan are in full swing as the two-week countdown for the launch of the UAE's Mars spacecraft begins.

The rocket that will deliver the Hope probe to space – the H-IIA launcher by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries – is being prepared for its July 15 launch.

Emirati engineers have been at the Tanegashima Space Centre since April, looking after the spacecraft that took nearly six years to build.

Hope was sent to Japan along with its engineers ahead of schedule because of Covid-19 travel restrictions. The team also had to complete the mandatory 15-day quarantine period well before the launch day.

A few space officials left for the launch site this week and will be out of quarantine in time for lift-off day.

For the past two months, the Hope team in Japan have been carrying out regular tests on the spacecraft to ensure it is ready for its seven-month journey to Mars and its scientific mission once it arrives in February, 2021 – in time for the UAE's golden jubilee.

UAE's Mars probe arrives in Japan

UAE's Mars probe arrives in Japan

Hope has three scientific instruments that will be used to capture images and study Mars.

The Emirates Mars Infrared Spectrometer will measure the global distribution of dust, ice clouds, water vapour and the temperature of the Martian atmosphere.

The Emirates Exploration Imager will take high-resolution images of Mars and study its lower atmosphere.

And the Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrometer will study the upper atmosphere and traces of oxygen and hydrogen.

The project is funded by the UAE Space Agency, which said it cost "significantly less" than similar Mars missions carried out by other countries.

It was developed by engineers from the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, in co-ordination with three US universities.

If the mission is a success, the UAE will become the first Arab nation to reach the Red Planet.